No Other World by Rahul Mehta [in Library Journal]
In this debut novel (following Quarantine), western New York in 1985 and western India in 1998 are introduced as prologue, with both time and place connected by the 12-going-on-13-year-old and 26-year-old versions of Kiran Shah, whose coming-of-age as a bicultural gay Indian American is the focus of the story.
Kiran, a quiet boy with few friends, inappropriately obsessed with his “all-American” neighbors, is one-quarter of his four-person family: father Nishit worries over his strained relationships with his left-behind Indian relatives, mother Shanti questions her American life as a result of her arranged marriage, and older sister Preeti suffers horrific abuse that eventually leads her away from her cultural roots. A postcollege breakdown sends Kiran to his father’s ancestral home on the other side of the world, where he develops a relationship with a teenage hijra (a member of India’s community of trans women whose blessings are considered auspicious at a child’s birth). The journey becomes the unexpected catalyst toward Kiran’s healing and his (immediate) family’s reconciliation.
As exquisitely as Mehta sustains his mellifluous language throughout, his time-hopping narrative (a lifetime condensed into a single sentence, non sequitur mentions of what didn’t happen, coy references to events yet to come) ultimately proves distracting and disappointing both.